Teaching Hub

What to Do When Your Test Answers are Available Online: Create 1200-Question Test Banks!

by Deborah Keene, Associate Director, Blount Scholars Program

How often do you check to see whether answers to your tests are available somewhere online?

In the Department of Geological Sciences, several GEO 101 instructors decided that we needed to create our own test bank after we found several of our exams, with answers, online (e.g., QuizletStudyBlueKoofersCourseHeroStudySoup, etc.). Our goal was to be able to create tests that asked for the same core information in different ways each semester, thereby ensuring that one would need to understand the content in order to answer the question, rather than simply memorizing questions and answers.

In the end, we created a test bank of 1200 questions written by our faculty.

There are various ways to create a test bank. One of our concerns was making it convenient to use. In our case, we chose to use test creation software that came with our textbook. The software already included a test bank, so we simply needed to add additional files to that test bank.

  1. The first step was to collect exams from all faculty members who had ever taught GEO 101.
  2. I sorted the questions into separate files based on topic.
  3. The topic files were given to the departmental administrative assistant, who made sure they were formatted correctly for the test creation software.
  4. Once the formatting was finished, I uploaded the files into the test creation software under their topic names.
  5. The final result was a 1200-question test bank.

To use it, instructors could open a topic file, read through the test questions, checking questions as they went, and add them to the test with the click of a button. The software program would scramble the answers if requested and create an answer key. The creator could edit the questions as they wished.

This method, while it resulted in a convenient test-making tool, took some time and effort to put together. However, I don’t think that a department needs to follow this exact model to benefit from the project.

In the end, the biggest benefit of the project was not the bank that we set out to create, but the information we gained along the way. The most useful information I received, was learning how other faculty create test questions. They asked questions involving diagrams, line drawings, and charts that tested critical concepts in our field. There were examples of inclusive language that could be adopted by everyone. They asked questions about difficult topics in clear language and questions that I had never conceived of.

It’s likely that instructors in any department could find ways to replicate this process, and thereby enhance their department’s testing pedagogy.

By the time the process of making the test bank was finished, I had already become a better test maker by adopting the language and techniques of my colleagues.

If your department does not have the software or someone with the time to assemble a formal question bank, simply sharing exams through UA Box will enable you to learn from each other and create better tests.

While teachers will never solve the issue of tests appearing online, following the steps above will result in a greater number of unique tests over time. And, perhaps more importantly, this process will result in better ways to assess student learning.